It is crucial that broadcasters ensure the needs of all Australians are met in the dissemination of emergency information. Australians who are deaf or hard of hearing require access to information, especially critical information during emergencies and disasters.
Australians who are deaf or hard of hearing comprise one-sixth of the population and rely heavily on information provided through broadcasts, across all media channels but particularly television. This is compromised when broadcasters do not include an appropriately certified sign language interpreter, visible on screen, throughout all live broadcasts and accurate captioning available.
“There are many people with language barriers who aren’t able to access things in the community that they should be able to access,” says Heidi Limareff, Can:Do Group Chief Executive.
“The dangerous gaps in communication need to be rectified and there needs to be a greater understanding of the required access needs for deaf or hard of hearing people.”
Ensuring qualified Auslan/English interpreters are included in Emergency Services briefings and announcements is critical. Broadcasters are urged to make every effort to ensure that interpreters are used and that they are clearly visible on the screen, equally prominent to the speaker and unimpeded by graphics on the screen.
Captions are not always available and live captioning is often prone to errors due to the speed of the speech and use of complex place names and technical terms. Captions are very important to the elderly and hard of hearing people. In addition, not every television has captions available, particularly when deaf or hard of hearing people are away from their home. For many deaf people, English is their second language and Auslan (Australian Sign Language) their first. Captions do not necessarily mean that information is fully accessible in these circumstances, which makes it harder to stay informed.
It is crucial that Broadcasters take seriously their obligation to ensure disaster information is accessible for everyone, including deaf and hard of hearing people.
Deaf Can:Do, The Royal South Australian Deaf Society express sincere gratitude to Emergency Services agencies and personnel who are working hard to make the community safe during these unprecedented bushfires and current cyclone in Western Australia/Northern Territory.
National agencies include: Deaf Australia, Deafness Forum of Australia, Deafblind Australia, Deaf Sports Australia, Better Hearing Australia, The Deaf Society, AccessPlus WA, Deaf Can:Do, Expression Australia and Deaf Services.